Many files you may wish to translate will be in a text format that can be handled with a word processor, such as MS Word. Almost everyone is familiar with these programs, which means that most people likely to participate in the translation work flow will have access to them, and will know how to use them. File format compatibility is not the issue today that it was in the past, and generally, these files are easy to share. These kinds of files lend themselves to translation, and will not present great obstacles.
Cloud-based word processing tools enable us to work from anywhere, and to share documents with ease. This can be beneficial, and may foster collaboration among members of the translation team. When free, such as Google Docs, they also eliminate the costs associated with acquiring and upgrading a commercial program.
Translators working with translation software will use it to process .txt, .doc, .docx and other text-based files to take advantage of existing translation memories as they create the target text, and then generate the translated version, maintaining the format of the original. Unless the file is very complex, usually the result is a translated copy of the original that requires little work beyond some copy fitting. More complex files containing tables, images, and heavy formatting (just imagine an application form), may require considerable post-processing to create the final product.
Keep in mind, however, that while words processors are powerful tools, they were not designed for certain specific tasks. For example, MS Word can open and allow you to edit many file formats, including html, xml, Excel, and many others. However, doing so also alters them, introducing changes that can affect their usability when returned to their native format.
In particular, you should resist the temptation to work with html or xml files in MS Word or other word processors, even though it is possible. This introduces unwanted html codes in the files, something that will not be apparent until you attempt to use them in a browser, where links and programming may no longer work, and format may have been lost or altered. While the code in these files can be cleaned up and restored to its original state, the process can be time consuming, to the point that cutting and pasting the text in a copy of the original file may actually become a better option. When translating html files without translation software, your best bet to preserve the format and links is a good html editor.
When sending text and word processing files out to translate, watch for these issues that can be an obstacle to translation:
- Track changes. Accept all changes and turn Track
Changes off to avoid the possibility of introducing extra text fragments in the
- Paragraph returns in the middle of sentences. This can
happen when a file is not formatted correctly, or when it was created by
copying the text from a PDF. The extra paragraph returns will cause the file to
be segmented incorrectly in translation software, and will make TM ineffective.
- Text in columns created using tabs and soft returns. A
better option is a table format, with hard returns.
- Tables with fixed row height. The translation may not
fit properly in the space allowed for the source language text, and some of the
translation may not display in the final file.
- Text boxes. These also don't adjust automatically to
accommodate the text, so part of the translation may be obscured in the
- Avoid embedded elements, such as spreadsheet tables.
These are simply dynamic links to other files, so the translator won't have
access to the actual text they point to.
- Styles. Proper styling make for easier formatting of
the original, and makes translation easier as well.
- Tables of contents. Word can generate a table of
contents automatically, rather than having to create it manually, but its
ability to do so depends on the proper application of styles. If the document
is styled properly, the table of contents will be generated correctly from the